The A-10 Thunderbolt II, or Warthog, is one of the most iconic American military planes ever made!
The A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately referred to as the “Warthog” or simply “Hog,” was built by the Fairchild Republic and has been adopted and deployed in battle with devastating outcomes exclusively by the United States Air Force since 1976. The aircraft had its first flight in 1972 and remained in production until 1984. Overall, more than 700 units of the A-10 were built with just 390 units of those still active.
Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, the P-47 Thunderbolt, the A-10, which was created in the middle of the Cold War, also wreaked havoc on enemy tanks, armored vehicles, as well as aircraft, becoming a vital component of the AirLand Battle strategy developed by the US. The A-10 is still in active service, and it’s also among the most revered military planes for the reasons we’ve listed here.
10. Purposefully Designed
The threat posed by the Soviet Union’s large numbers of tanks led the US Air Force to request an aircraft specifically designed to carry out CAS missions and make enemy armor useless. The requirements for the design entailed a low-cost aerial unit capable of attacking enemy troops at low altitudes with high-speed weaponry and survivability.
These requirements later expanded to include a maximum speed of 450 MPH and an operating speed of 300 MPH. Six proposals were submitted and the Fairchild Republic was awarded the contract to make prototypes, hence the birth of the A-10 Warthog.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is powered by two identical General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans. Each engine generates a thrust of 9,065 pounds, making the plane powerful enough for take-off at short distances. It has a length of 16.16 meters and a wingspan of 17.42 meters.
Furthermore, a striking feature of the A-10 is the unconventional placement of its engine and tail. It was designed that way to thwart enemies with heat-seeking missiles.
8. Precision Engagement Upgrade
The A-10 precision engagement upgrade program aimed at enhancing the precision of the Hog’s targeting capabilities. This allowed the A-10 to deploy precision weapons like the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser and Joint Direct Attack Munition.
Other improvements to the Aircraft include situational awareness datalinks, new 5-inch-by-5-inch Raytheon Technical multifunction cockpit displays, digital stores management system, and an integrated flight and fire control computer to assist pilots in the continuous weapon delivery and target pods for precision-guided weapons.
The A-10 is very tough. It was built to take a beating while firing at enemy troops with low-altitude armor-piercing ammunition. The A-10 sports a honeycomb panel design that makes up a large portion of the wing and tail, making it more resistant to damage.
The cockpit is also encased in titanium armor capable of absorbing direct hits from armor-piercing rounds and a ballistic glass canopy capable of protecting the pilots and vital components from small arms. Just seven A-10s have ever been shot down or crashed in combat.
Due to its amazing lethal firepower, the Warthog can be described as an airplane mounted on a gun. Its major weapon is a 30 millimeter GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun designed to spray high explosive incendiary ammo and armor-piercing depleted uranium rounds – the size of beer bottles – on enemy tanks and troops in short bursts.
The gun is not just powerful, but also precise. The A-10 can strike within 40 feet of its target obliterating everything within its scope.
5. Made For Close Combat
The A-10 Warthog is the golden standard for close combat aircraft, due to its ability to maneuver at low altitudes and still dish out lethal blows to enemy troops. This relentless and tough ground attack plane will destroy the enemy’s armor and artillery and not even a bad weather condition will dampen the Hog’s wrath.
The aircraft is capable of loitering around the battlefield and even operates in low visibility conditions, while night vision goggles also aid the pilots during operations carried out in the dark.
4. Low Production Costs
The A-10 was designed to be cheap to produce with the US prioritizing cost over performance. The aircraft was designed to take a lot of damage, hence, it was built with simple and cheap materials for easy replacement of the damaged parts. In case of an all-out war with the Soviets, the easily produced and large quantity of replacement parts were huge factors.
The A-10’s low production cost is also one of the factors that have kept the aircraft in service to date with each unit costing about $13 million in 1994 dollars.
3. Gulf War Heroics
The air superiority of the A-10 allowed for its use in different roles during the Gulf War. Its primary role was to destroy enemy tanks while other roles played by the aircraft in the war include suppressing the enemy air defenses and attacking Iraqi early warning radars.
In one of its most incredible feats during the war, several A-10s destroyed more than 900 Iraqi tanks, 1,200 artillery pieces, and 2,000 other military vehicles. According to a captured Iraqi captain, the A-10 Warthog was the most recognizable and feared aircraft in the Gulf War.
2. Adored By Ground Soldiers
When the army and marine troops find themselves in bad situations, only one aircraft is needed to level the playing field – the A-10. The Warthog is highly revered by U.S. ground troops. Its accurate weapons delivery is more than well developed to support the ground soldiers.
There is the smell of victory and freedom in the air whenever soldiers hear the familiar gun sounds of the Warthog, with Major Paul Doran commenting that the survival of the ground soldiers often depends on the effectiveness of the aircraft.
The power of the A-10 cannot be over-emphasized. Its ability to deliver precise devastating strikes is a real game changer. However, despite its power, the A-10 has been under constant threat of retirement. First, the F-16 was created to take over its job and then followed by the F-35.
Though these two planes carry the same weight as the A-10 to battle, they were built for different combat styles. The A-10 persists today because it excels in its role as a powerful air support vehicle, earning it a spot in the vanguard of current military operations regardless of its age.